Together The People Festival - Preston Park, Brighton
In a time where festivals are shutting up shop at a worrying rate it is with great relief that, after its successful inaugural year, Together The People returns to Brighton’s Preston Park. Spanning four stages over two days the independent, child friendly, greenfield festival has a bit of something for everyone.
Entering the site on Saturday the first thing that strikes you, except for the One Inch Badge Main Stage opening act American/Icelandic kids show Lazytown which garnered a great response from the young audience (but drove me straight away to the excellent Harvey’s Brewery bar tent), is the scale of the festival. Relatively small compared to some more rural efforts, the site has a village fete atmosphere due in part to how the festival has come into being. It combines music, film, art, and food communities, pooling together the finest and most passionate individuals and businesses that Brighton has to offer. From a wide variety of local fresh food including a chintzy cake and tea stall, retro gaming, the Resident record stall and signing tent, fairground rides, and The Incredible Moving Picture House, it is the essence of community spirit. But we're all about the music, so let's get to it.
Saturday brought a plethora of different music styles across all four stages, the BIIM Stage choosing to focus on new/unsigned local bands with special mentions going to SEATS, the dirty blues-rock of Atlas Wynd, and thrashy psychobilly of Egyptian Blue. The Concorde 2 New Bands Stage also had the goods with the Dylan-esque Matthew Logan Vasquez and the effortlessly cheery Turin Brakes. The One Inch Badge Main Stage also gets into the festival mood with the sunshine reggae of Natty and a wonderful solo set from the town's adopted son Gaz Coombes. It's early evening when the heavens open and sends some of the less hardened to the beer tents and smaller stages. But nothing will stop people braving the elements for the keynote performance of the weekend: Brian Wilson. In typical Californian fashion the rain decides his set is the perfect time to stop. The living legend emerges visibly frail and unable to manage the higher notes (these duties handed to Matt Jardine), taking some time to warm up but delivers the goods with his Pet Sounds setlist (“the arty album before we get back to some more Rock and Roll”) bookended by earlier crowd-pleasing Beach Boys classics. A perfect mood lifter for the drenched crowd.
Sunday emerges, a greyer day but mercifully dryer, and music more varied as the day progresses. The BIIM Stage kicks off proceedings with the fantastic Mother Me with their blend of Durutti Column and First Aid Kit, there are also outstanding performances from Frankie Furlow’s acoustic singalongs, the throwback grunge of Beach Tape, the One Eyed Jacks funk and soul revue, and pub punk-rock of The Rocking Horse Club. The tiny teepee covered Soapbox Stage also plays host to the brilliant Chris TT with a blend of heavily left leaning folk and spoken word that packs out the small stage.
Over on the Concorde 2 New Bands Stage which also delivered with the new wave Martha Gunn, and the eclectic Phoria, but special mention must go to Louisiana's Seratone who blow the roof off the tent with their enthusiasm and Sister Rosetta Tharpe updated for the punk rock generation. The One Inch Badge Stage continues the trend with M Ward’s grizzled Americana, the sublime crowd movers Songhoy Blues, Peter Hook and The Light delivering the first crowd singalongs of the day with a greatest hits of Joy Division and New Order set. Thankfully they avoid being just a good pub covers band. And The Horrors who should be playing the high school prom in Pretty In Pink if it had been directed by David Lynch. Festival closers Suede have a tough act to follow after Saturday’s closer, but the ever enigmatic and energetic frontman Brett Anderson seems to take this as a challenge and leads the crowd in rousing singalongs that leave them ecstatic and wanting more.
Together The People, we loved 2016. See you in 2017.